"Asylum granted." With those words, Hacker extraordinaire Edward Snowden can now rest peacefully in the bosom of the bear.
Whether you applaud his efforts in casting a light on the dark inner workings of the uber-secret NSA and their surveillance apparatus, or if you feel that he deserves the special moniker of 'terrorist' for shining such a light, either position glosses over a problematic issue that hasn't been brought up to my knowledge and needs to be addressed, at least to those concerned with some semblance of fair play in our U.S. economy.
So what's the issue? To put it plainly, any hacker with access to such a trove of information then becomes endowed with taxpayer-funded advantages to which the said hacker could then parlay into any number of lucrative endeavors gleaned from such a gig. Here I am making assumptions about internet user behavior applicable to my trade whilst my tax dollars are funding a better info-equipped future competitor to muddle my more regal route to market success.
This taxpayer-funded unfair market advantage could describe many bureaucracies where secrecy or the lack of disclosure obscures the general public from all kinds of valuable information, and judging by the size of their budgets and the far-out super-duper advanced equipment that certain governmental agencies possess, the divide, in terms of access, competency, privilege and potential between a government worker and a non-governmental worker is widening.
Who knows how many almost-Edward Snowdens there are in these secretive organizations where instead of getting off exit 5A which leads to political persecution and exile they instead got off of exit 4B which leads to a high-paying research analyst job at a huge company.
This unsettling advantage places all the more emphasis and importance on public access and disclosure. I would go a bit further, these government agencies should have an open door policy, let me walk in and check it out, I won't bother nobody or touch anything, let me peer over the shoulder of that NSA analyst crunching data or a NASA engineer tinkering on that next great propulsion system, then let me walk over to Wall Street and play the stock market or let me launch a new business armed with public knowledge.
While we're on the issue of government secrecy, has there ever been a case where a civil servant was prosecuted for passing classified info to a corporation? Disclosing to public bad. Disclosing to corporations good.
So when weighing the actions of Edward Snowden, be mindful of not only the constitutional issues he presents but also the economic disparities inherent to a system veiled in unrelenting secrecy. Walls built brick-by-brick are never toppled the same.